Singing one of dozens of songs in the musical Beehive at Whidbey Playhouse are left to right: Adara Petersen, Germaine Kornegay and Sarah Gallagher. The show runs Sept. 8-Oct. 1. Photos by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

‘Beehive’ reflects on turbulent 1960s with songs, ’dos

Six female singers, ages 16-48, portray a decade of girl groups

It was a time of female role models with big hair and high boots.

It was a time for stark lessons in violence, hate and war.

There was a revolution of sorts.

It was the 1960s.

The decade began with John Kennedy as president, “Leave it to Beaver” on TV and bouffants on nearly every woman’s head, but culminated with Woodstock undress and Vietnam unrest.

It all comes alive in the musical revue, “Beehive,” on stage at Whidbey Playhouse in Oak Harbor. Opening Friday, the show runs through Oct. 1.

Six actresses of various ages and stage experience turn the spotlight on the early “girl groups” of the 1960s, such as the Chiffons, the Shirelles and the Supremes. The solo sirens of Leslie Gore, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin are also featured in the revue of some three dozen songs performed in two acts.

Live music from an on-stage band, led by Jamar Jenkins, helps bring the pop, soul and rock and roll of yesteryear into the YouTube era.

Longtime Playhouse director Allenda Jenkins joined with first-time director Eric George to stage the production. It’s based on the Broadway show of the mid-1980s created by the late Larry Gallagher.

Dancing plays a big part in “Beehive.” Five choreographers are credited in the program.

“The Monkey, the Pony, the Jerk, the Swim, the Mashed Potato, they had to learn them all,” said Allenda Jenkins, reeling off the funky-named dance steps of the 60s.

Added co-director George: “We learned every possible version of every song — albums, live versions, Broadway.”

Jenkins says she lucked out in finding the six women who comprise the entire cast.

“I couldn’t have asked for a more diverse group,” she said. “There’s three black women, three white women, two altos, two sopranos, two tenors, a blonde and two brunettes.

“They all have unique voices but they harmonize and blend so well.”

And they range in age from 16 to 48.

Some needed to do lots of historical research while others were singing the roles of their dreams.

“Growing up, you wanted to be the women of these songs,” said Germaine Kornegay, the only cast member actually alive during the 60s.

Kornegay does just that when she steps into the shoes of Aretha Franklin and then into the thigh-high boots of Tina Turner.

Owner of a pet grooming business and a Sedro-Woolley councilwoman, Kornegay has many musicals under her belt, including “Hairspray,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Fame,” and “The Wiz.”

She softly and perfectly growls the lyrics, “You’re a no-good heart breaker. You’re a liar and a cheat,” to start off a medley of Aretha songs. She’s backed up by two 17-year-old cast mates, Adara Petersen and Liv Sundown.

Petersen described herself as a “60s fanatic.” “Dusty Springfield is my favorite band. It was a revolutionary time. It changed America.”

Sundown, an Oak Harbor High School senior, provides the best acting with comical grimaces and side glances.

Erin Pitts, 30, mother to three young girls and an admitted karaoke fanatic, provides the narrative interludes that mark the decade’s decisive moments. Black and white images flash by — President Kennedy in the Dallas motorcade, Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in Washington, D.C., a soldier in a helmet inscribed with “War is Hell.”

Amy Malmaker, real estate agent by day, said learning the lines, songs and dance steps for the show wasn’t easy. They’ve been rehearsing since June.

“We’ve all done the roller coaster ride,” she said. “Trying to balance your work life, family life and rehearsals five, six days a week is tough.”

Well, except for half the cast, the school kids who had the summer off.

Sarah Gallagher, the youngest at 16, will no doubt remember the summer of ‘17 as the summer she became Janis.

Standing alone on stage, she belts out a stunning version of “Cry Baby,” hands down the best rendition of any song during the two-hour show.

The Oak Harbor High School student who cites choir as her favorite subject also plays piano. She said she’d been encouraged by relatives to learn Joplin’s raspy, bluesy songs.

“I’m like totally bursting with pride,” James Gallagher enthused after the show with a hug for his daughter.

“Sarah, you rocked that song. And that’s not just a proud Dad talking.”

• “Beehive” is onstage Sept. 8 – Oct. 1 at Whidbey Playhouse. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $20 adults; $18 students. Tickets can be purchased at the box office, 730 S.E. Midway Blvd. Oak Harbor, or online at www.whidbeyplayhouse.com

Amy Malmaker gets her big hair ready before taking the stage for Beehive.

Actresses starring in Beehive, a Whidbey Playhouse musical spotlighting the girl groups of the 1960s, are left to right: Germaine Kornegay, Sarah Gallagher, Erin Pitts, Adara Petersen and Liv Sundown.

Erin Pitts becomes pretty in pink before a preview show of Beehive last week. Opening is 7:30 p.m. Friday.

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